PHOENIX (AP) - An appeals court on Wednesday struck down a voter-approved Arizona law that denies bail to immigrants who are in the country illegally and have been charged with a range of felonies that include shoplifting, aggravated identity theft, sexual assault and murder.
An 11-member panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the law violates due-process rights by imposing punishment before trial. The court also said the law was a "scattershot attempt" at confronting people who flee from authorities, and that there was no evidence the law dealt with a particularly critical problem.
Proponents of the 2006 statute said it prevents people who aren't authorized to be in the country and skip out on their bail from committing future offenses. Critics say the law's real intent is to punish immigrants before they are convicted of crimes.
An aide to Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was sued as part of the challenge to the law, said he believes the sheriff's office will ask the 9th Circuit to reconsider its opinion and, if that doesn't succeed, will petition the U.S. Supreme Court to take the case.
American Civil Liberties Union attorney Cecillia Wang, who argued the case before the appeals court, said Wednesday's ruling protects the guarantee that every person accused of a crime is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
Former state Rep. Russell Pearce proposed the no-bail law and went on to win approval for Arizona's landmark 2010 immigration enforcement law. He said the appeals court overstepped its bounds with its decision and is overriding voters' wishes.
The law was among four immigration proposals approved by Arizonans in 2006. The other measures made English the state's official language, barred immigrants who aren't authorized to be in the country from receiving punitive damages in lawsuits, and prohibited them from receiving certain government services and benefits.
The 9th Circuit panel wrote that there were no studies, statistics or other evidence showing that people in the country illegally pose a greater risk of fleeing from authorities than people in the country legally.
"This is an instance where the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals is substituting themselves as some sort of super legislature and substituting their judgment for the judgment of the elected representatives in Arizona and the voters in Arizona," said Arpaio aide Jack MacIntyre.
Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery, the top county prosecutor for metro Phoenix, also was sued as part of the challenge. His office had no immediate comment.